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radio, it's the political platform of choice. with both campaigns poised to spend more than a billion dollar s. u.s. embassies and consulates under siege. crowds lashing out in america, over a video knocking islam. i'm wolf blitzer in tyrone wood
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honored and remembered. president obama spoke about the men, calling them heroes who gave their lives for our
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country. >> they had a mission and they believed in it. they knew the danger. they knew the danger, and they accepted it. they didn't simply embrace the american ideal, they lived it. >> we'll have much more on the service coming up but first the latest on the wave of protests. joining us arwa damon and ben wedeman. arwa, what's going on in benghazi right now? >> reporter: well, the situation is pretty tense. just about every single libyan that we have been speaking to of course expressing their horror, their outrage about tuesday's attack, saying this most certainly is not indicative of how libyans themselves feel but
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also really wanting to see their own government begin to take control, begin to rein in these various militias. the government for its part now does believe, says it's 100% confident that tuesday's attack was carried out by extremist group or groups. they say they detained four people, not disclosing which group they were affiliated with but they were also say they go believe this attack was preplanned, intended to inflict damage to drive an irrepairable wedge between the libyans and americans. >> arwa, earlier you walked through what remains of that u.s. consulate in benghazi where ambassador stevens and the three other americans were killed in tuesday's attack and you sent us dramatic video. walk us through what you saw. >> reporter: we walked into the main residence building and that is where we were told ambassador stevens died of smoke inhalation, standing inside that location, seeing a partial
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bloodstains on the wall, seeing the soot, the ash, the debris, seeing remnants of the life that was and bits and pieces of what those two were actually stationed there, believed in there, there was a piece of paper that had scrawled across it "libya is so important." it was a real chilling, somber experience to be walking through it. and one also, though, must point out at this stage that the attack that took place did not just happen at this one location. after personnel were evacuated from this compound, they were then taken to a safe house where we are being told a short while later that location, too, coming under attack. so this really is putting a lot of questions out there, first and foremost of course the capabilities of the libyan government but also the questions to whether or not the u.s. underestimated the threat that it faces here. libyan security officials have been telling us that for months now they've been warning the united states about this growing
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extremist threat and that they have been growing ever more concerned about how little control they actually themselves have over the situation. >> arwa, please be careful over there in benghazi. we'll stay in close touch. arwa damon, one of our courageous journalists. the egyptian capital is tense, the u.s. embassy is tense. ben wedeman, what's going on now? are they out in tahrir square? >> at the moment it's gone relatively quiet. ta tahrir square looks normal, given it's 3:00 a.m.. in the streets below me, just a few protesters milling around. we haven't heard the bang of tear gas being fired by the security forces. this day could have been much worse in egypt. the muslim brotherhood had called for nationwide protests
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against this offensive youtube video that sparked this crisis, but at the last moment they cancelled those protests. so really we've seen a small protest outside the u.s. consulate in alexandria. here in cairo the numbers are down. it's important to keep in mind there's just a few hundred protesters outside the u.s. embassy clashing with the egyptian security forces, this in a city of 18 million people, most people staying at home, not taking part in these demonstrations. many egyptians i've spoken to have said they were of course offended by the youtube video but certainly did not support, do not support the violent protests outside the u.s. embassy. wolf? >> one thing that's very disturbing to me because we talked about this, the muslim brotherhood leadership, which effectively now controls egypt,
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they're saying one thing, positive words in english to the americans, to the outside community but they're saying something radically different to their own people in arabic and you're fluent in arabic, ben. explain what's going on. >> reporter: well, if you go on their -- the arabic web site of the muslim brotherhood, they seem to take a fairly much harder line on these demonstrations. initially they had a story praising the young men who breached the embassy walls on tuesday evening. now, today i was with some of the sort of rank and file of the muslim brotherhood in a different part of town, and their rhetoric really wasn't much different from what we're hearing on the streets below, you know, condemnation of the united states, accusing the united states of fostering terrorism worldwide, of being in an alliance with israel against egypt. this is very much sort of the
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standard rhetoric of the muslim brotherhood when you get down to, you know, their rank and file. this is the normal rhetoric that they speak of among themselves. but certainly what we've seen in the last 24 to 48 hours is an attempt by the leadership, for instance, we saw that letter published in the "new york times" from the number two in the muslim brotherhood saying that he's against the violation of diplomatic sanctity, that he expressed condolences of the death of the u.s. ambassador in libya. but when you talk to ordinary member of the muslim brotherhood, it's a completely different message. >> another one of our courageous journalists. ben, please be careful yourself. >> now to that final journey home for the four americans killed in libya. joining us now, robin wright, a joint fellow at the u.s.
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institute of peace and woodrow wilson center. she was a close personal friend of ambassador stevens. robin, such a sad day for all of us, especially for someone like you who knew him for 20 years. listen to the secretary of state at the memorial service today. >> people loved to work with chris. and as he rose through the ranks, they loved to work for chris. he was known not only for his courage but for his smile, goofy but contagious, for his sense of fun and that california cool. >> you knew him for about 20 years. you were at his swearing in ceremony when he became the ambassador. talk a little bit about how this has impacted you. i know even last week you were in touch with him about an upcoming trip to libya. >> chris was an extraordinary man, craving for curiosity about this part of the world, was willing to go anywhere. this was his third tour in
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libya. he'd also served in syria, the palestinian territories and in saudi arabia. he was willing to take on these tough assignments over and over and over again, yet he did have this kind of goofy sense of humor and he always made me laugh with a self-effacing story about one of his misadventures. he once in libya was followed by one of moammar gadhafi's intelligence agents and he snatched the camera away from the libyan goon and turned and and snapped the guy's picture with it and then he smiled and gave the camera back but he made his point. once when he was based in jerusalem, he was in the middle of the second intifada and a time of real tensions when palestinians were blowing themselves enough israeli bus stations and he and a colleague went out in the middle of a rare snowstorm in jerusalem and started lobbing snowballs at
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each other and the israelis and palestinians on both sides of the divide got involved and it was a moment that broke what was one of the tensest times in relations. >> very sad day. do you think there were some warning signals missed that could have prevented what happened in benghazi? >> the united states issued a >> the united states issued a travel warning just last month talking about the increase in political violence, assassinations, car bombings, warned that the wide array of militias could begin engaging with each other at any time, at anyplace in the country and cautioned americans to stay away from libya and particularly certain parts of libya. so, yes, there were lots of warnings about the dangers. but remember, these are all countries in transition and these are all new governments that don't have complete control over the security apparatus. in libya that's particularly true in the aftermath of 42 years of moammar gadhafi's rule
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and the emergence of some 300 militias in a brief eight-month period as the rebels fought to oust gadhafi. >> one final thought before i let you go, robin. if he were alive now, what would he want the u.s. to do in the short term as a result of what happened in libya this week? >> i think he would say waver not, do not fear the future. engage and also allow those on the ground to lead the way. let the libyans and egyptians and tunisians guide the united states and its allies on what role it can play, not try to go in heavy handed, as the united states has often done. i also think when it comes to his own death, he probably would have said make sure that these guys get a free and fair trial and that they reflect the new rule of law in libya. >> robin wright, thanks very much for coming in. >> thank you. >> up next, the former u.s. ambassador to morocco on the
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their creed, whatever their faith. that's the essence of american leadership. that's the spirit that sets us apart from other nations. this was their work in benghazi, and this is the work we will carry on. >> president obama today at the moving ceremony for ambassador chris stevens and the three other americans killed in the benghazi attack on tuesday. libyan officials now believe the attack was planned. mark ginsburg is the former u.s. ambassador to morocco and knows the region well. thanks very much for coming in. it's the 11th anniversary of 9/11, there are warnings out there, the u.s. and others recently killed a top al qaeda leader from libya. was this consulate adequately protected? >> given the circumstances in benghazi, wolf, probably not.
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probably because there had been similar attacks on the british ambassador's convoy, there had been an infiltration of islamic extremists from the southern part of libya, there had been a series of attacks near the airport. so there's no doubt that chris was well aware at the time that benghazi was less than a secure city. >> what do you think caused this attack? was it simply that anti-islamic film or is there something much bigger here that explains this hatred of the united states? >> well, with respect to libya, i don't think it has to do with hatred of the united states. the islam terrorist groups, could have been gadhafi dead enders who have been plotting to destabilize the government. across the rest of the region, there's clearly a permeation of anti-and the struggle between the muslim brotherhood. >> egypt is much more important. i assume you like a lot of
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others are deeply disappointed that the newly elected president was so shy at least at the beginning in condemning the attack on the u.s. embassy. >> indeed. when he went to tehran a few days before that, i was hoping he would keep punching above his weight. it's clear between the extremists governing with him and his desire to placate and be ideologically pure to the muslim brotherhood, he decided to jettison his responsibilities as president to the rest of the outside world and it took a call from the president of the united states to remind him his
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constituency and support is not only from within egypt but from the united states and other countries. >> you served under jimmy carter. you advised him on the middle east. those were tumultuous days. we're now even seeing that knows american and other international observers are coming under attack. they've been there as soon as 1981. is it time to get those guys out of there? about 750 american soldiers remain in sinai. >> indeed. given the fact there's been an infiltration of islamic extremists attacking egyptian forces, these american and united nations troops are being caught in the middle. more importantly, wolf, the real problem that we're seeing here is just use this as an example. look at the islamic extremists in egypt who have the megaphone now and can cause the mobilization of people to rise up and march on embassies. just think what would happen if
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they decided to march into the sinai against israel. u.n. buffer forces are more essential. it's going to require egyptians to are far more vigilant but what's happening in sinai, not only because of these terrorist activities because they may realize they may have opened the pandora's box by giving them their mega phones back in cairo. >> how do you think president obama is handling this crisis? >> i think he's trying to do the best he can under the circumstances. clearly there's the domestic political equation side, the president has to deal with the failing expectations that muslims have of him. part of the problem here since his trip to cairo in 2009 when he gave this incredibly well received speech in which so many muslims were holding on to the hope that he would deliver a better region to them, between the failure to forge a peace between israel and the palestinians, wolf, and the
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disappointment over his support for regimes and dictators like mubarak, even though he didn't really do that, there are misperceptions that have crept back into the u.s./islamic dialogue that are causing further strife for diplomacy between the u.s. and the middle east. >> thank you for coming in. >> coming up, a member libya's royal family. is this country again spinning out of control? [ male announcer ] when this hotel added aflac to provide a better benefits package... oahhh! [ male announcer ] it made a big splash with the employees. [ duck yelling ] [ male announcer ] find out more at... [ duck ] aflac! [ male announcer ] ♪ ha ha!
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a deadly consulate attack and facing an uncertain future, right now libya is searching for stability after the fall of gadhafi. joining us is his royal highness, a member of the libyan royal family. your royal highness, thanks very
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much for coming in. i know you're in touch with people in libya right now. this must be such a shock. when you heard about the killing of the u.s. ambassador and three other americans, what went through your mind? >> we were absolutely caught by surprise and most of our family members and friends in libya were shocked to think something like this would occur in our country and we condemned it in the strongest terms and our heart goes out to the families of chris -- ambassador chris stevens, tyrone woods, glen doherty and sean smith on behalf of my family and the libyan people, we deeply heart-felt condolence and pay our respects to them. >> who do you believe, your highness, was responsible for these murders?
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>> we believe that because we have a successful revolution to overthrow the former regime, the element of gadhafi former regime, who are financed by outside of libya. >> who is financing these elements according to your information? >> these are gadhafi -- these are gadhafi you can say sympathizers and supporters who have taken -- who have control of libyan funds overseas. they are in egypt and they are in france and they are of course in africa -- in morocco. and they have -- they do provide the funds to those element inside the country to undermine
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the government and libya as a nation and the people, the innocent people, victims of their crime. >> because we know, your highness, that there are elements of al qaeda roaming around libya right now. is there a connection between al qaeda and whom you believe to be responsible for these murders? >> we do -- the prime -- the elected prime minister yesterday announced the capture and the arrest of four members of those -- of those criminals. and they will begin to interrogate them and shortly we will know exactly who is behind it at this point. we will know soon. >> but you believe this was timed deliberately, they targeted the american ambassador and they wanted to do it on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. do you believe that?
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>> i believe that strongly that they're doing this for one the 9/11, two, to disrupt the libyan-american relationship; three is to undermine the successful revolution because yesterday lippia elected the prime minister, who is a capable, able u.s.-educated and we are proud to have him to be our prime minister to lead our country forward. >> did you know ambassador stevens personally? >> i do not but my family memberdo and they are grateful to him for bringing libya and the united states much closer economically, culturally, politically and he played a vital role to keep our two countries united and coming closer together. >> let's get back to these pro-gadhafi elements. you and your family obviously hated moammar gadhafi.
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he was the enemy of a lot of people in libya. how much influence do these elements still have inside libya? >> frankly -- well, they don't have much but they have money and they have resources that they employ to libyans who are right now seeking to for stability and they are looking for ways to move forward with them. so they come up and give them money and promise them the future and some of them are close to them because they have 40 years relationship with them. and they provide them with all these resources, weapons and smuggling and ey have billions of dollars under their control. it's not a hundred million or 20. billions of dollars that these guys have, these criminal guys have them and they transfer those cash to those criminals
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inside the country. they're terrorists. >> if there's coordinations with terrorists, that could be a huge problem for libya indeed with the rest of the world. thank you for joining us. we really appreciate. >> thank you very much for having me. >> coming up, the crisis overseas leads to new battles on the campaign trail here at home. >> look across that region today and what do we see? the slaughter of brave dissidents in syria, mobs storming american embassies and consulates, iran four years closer to getting a nuclear weapon. israel, our best ally in the region treating with indifference, bordering on contempt by the obama administration. ♪
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amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent american leadership. in the days ahead and in the years ahead american foreign
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policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. >> republican vice presidential nominee paul ryan on the attack against president obama's foreign policy. meanwhile, mitt romney offered a softer tone today, a change from his original president. joining us, three guests, ben smith, margaret hoover and maria cardova. maria, do you want to respond to that? >> sure. frankly it's just a misguided notion. i think a majority of the american voters will see it that way.
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i guess they have to do something because they're so behind on the issue of foreign policy that i guess they feel they have to throw everything plus the kitchen sink to see if they can make a dent in president obama's leadership here and frankly it shows in the numbers. he's ahead by, what, 8 to 10 points on foreign policy. and i think frankly the blunder that mitt romney made earlier this week in attacking president obama on 9/11 with misguided facts i think underscores the fact that he is just not ready to be commander in chief and they're worried about that. >> margaret, i don't want to rehash too much history but was that a blunder? >> i think even mitt romney has suggested that within a certain time frame maybe he might not have said it that way but he has stuck to his word that he and the president agree that the initial statement that the embassy made was in the best interest of the country. i disagree with maria that the romney campaign is trying -- i do think there's an opportunity here for the republicans to make foreign policy an issue.
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maria is right, president obama has led on foreign policy by double digits for some time now. threw bu there's a real moral imperative to make the case for failure of leadership abroad. president obama hasn't spoken to the muslim world the way he did when he first came to office. this is a perfect opportunity for a cairo speech 2.0. >> would that be smart? with only a few weeks to go before the election for the president to do another cairo 2.0 kind of speech? and the second part of the question, ben, would it be smart for mitt romney to deliver a major foreign policy address? >> i think you're more likely to see mitt romney do it than president obama because that kind of clarity is a luxury that candidate obama had in 2008 when you're not president of the united states. everything he says has direct consequences in the region and complicated diplomatic situations where he's trying to get a variety of governments to protect people at american embassies. there's a bunch of very specific
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things he is trying to get done, he has his hands tied a bit. >> margaret, when you look at the most recent polls before the violence in the middle east, on these battleground states, these are nbc/wall street journal poll numbers, in ohio, obama 50, romney 43. in virginia and florida, obama 49, romney 44. they're beginning to get very depressed, the republicans, when they see these numbers. no republican has ever been elected without at least ohio. how worried should they be? >> if you ask any republican now if the election today was held, most republicans would say unfortunately it looks like president obama is leading. ohio and florida are in a close election, which is going to be must win for mitt romney. there are varying polls on virginia. virginia is looking strong for president obama but it's all
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over the map. president obama certainly has more paths to victory than mitt romney. he has to win florida and ohio and pick up nevada, colorado, iowa, new hampshire, wisconsin's in play. polls a snapshot of where we are now. you're right, it was before all of this tumult in the middle east began again. to the extent they represent a trend line tells us something. ohio is the only one of the three you mentioned that i think republicans are beginning to think is light blue and may be gone. >> maria, the advantage that the republicans and romney have, they're probably going to have a lot more money given the super pac contributions that they've amassed over these final weeks. how significant is that in ohio, in florida, in virginia and some of these other battleground states? >> it could pontially be very significant, wolf. while i'll say that i feel really good about where
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president obama is right now, there's still a long time, frankly many lifetimes left in political life from here to the election so anything can happen. the super pacs on romney's side have a lot more money than the super pacs on president obama's side. but what president obama does have, i think, is right now i think the faith of the american people and essentially the likability factor and coming out of the convention underscored the fact that he is the candidate that really understands what middle-class families are going through, what they're struggling through. that was absent from the republican convention and i think that's why you saw the kind of bump president obama what has enjoyed from his convention versus the almost zero bump romney had from his convention. >> the poll numbers go up, go down. three presidentials coming up in october, one vice presidential debate. tens of millions of americans will be watching, especially those who are still undecided or switchable, if you will.
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romney spoke to george stephanopoulos and he was asked about the debates. this is what he said about the president of the united states. ben, listen to this. >> i think the challenge that i'll have in the debate is that the president tends to -- how shall i say it? say things that aren't true. that was a pretty blunt comment. what did you make of that, ben? >> i think at some point last month this whole presidential campaign degenerated into the two sides calling each other liars, in part over specific things like paul ryan's marathon time that maybe were little bit fudged but mostly over policy disagreements. it's more effective in the focus group to call each other names and both indulged in that quite a bit. i think romney is trying to lower expectations for the debate. >> that's pretty blunt, margaret, to call the president of the united states in effect a liar. >> yeah.
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i mean, look, i can't disagree with you there. i think a lot rests on the first debate. and i do think there is and i hope that there is not a lowering of the bar. mitt romney needs to hit a home run in his first debate and get momentum in. >> maria, are you confident the president has got what it takes to beat him in these three debates? >> i do, wolf. i think what mitt romney said was a little bit beyond the pale, especially when it's his campaign has been misinforming the public on welfare reform and where the president stands on that, on apologizing for dicare. >> i think romney and a lot of other republicans were really angry at that pro obama super pac ad that suggested that romney while he was at bain capital was directly or at least indirectly responsible for the death of the wife of one of the late workers. that really, really irritated them. i suspect that's why he said what he said to george
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stephanopoulos. we'll leave it there. we'll continue the conversation down the road. margaret, maria and ben, good discussion. >> coming up, we'll ask fareed zakaria if these protests are behind the movie or is something else behind the outrage? nothing complicated about a pair of 10 inch hose clamp pliers. you know what's complicated? shipping. shipping's complicated. not really. with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service shipping's easy. if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. that's not complicated. no. come on. how about... a handshake. alright. priority mail flat rate boxes. starting at just $5.15. only from the postal service. a short word that's a tall order. up your game. up the ante. and if you stumble, you get back up. up isn't easy, and we ought to know. we're in the business of up. everyday delta flies a quarter of million people
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many are wondering if the arab spring is now becoming an arab winter. i want to bring in fareed zakaria, the host of "fareed zakaria gps." is it now an arab winter? is it premature to say that? what do you think? >> i don't think that's quite the right way to think about it, wolf. these are societies that have been ruled by brutal dictatorships for 50 years. everything was suppressed in these society. now we've taken the lid off. it turns out there's a bunch of good stuff if there, moderates, pragmatists, liberals, but there are also some very nasty people. what you're seeing is the
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reality of these societies, extremists, islamic fundamentalists, extremists who wish americans ill. but it's true these are these cancers within these arab societies. the moderates will have to fight it with words and deeds and political movements because it would have shocked the protesters, is not the best answer. give us perspective, is this solely about that film, the anti-muslim filmore are we seeing something, these opportunities or sinister because some have suggested
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there may be an inspiration from at least some elements of al qaeda. >> i think it is more semesters. i am not sure what is going on. imagine the society's the lid has been taken off. what you are seeing is political contests. you are saying forces for a kind of backward persian, a political version of islam trying to gain the upper hand. think about libya, the real story in libya is the moderates won the elections. the hard-liners and radicals and extremists lost. now what is happening as those hard-liners and extremist having been unable to win through the legitimate democratic process are using violence and terror to intimidate people and came what they couldn't gain in the polls. in egypt, what you are seeing is radicals trying to intimidate the democratically elected
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president and succeeding. they should have shown more spine. it is more fat than a kind of overall block. my sense is al qaeda center was not behind this but these local forces are. >> you know russia is quoted as warning to the arab world could descend into chaos. is that fear overblown? >> he has is some concern, which is he has a great deal of islamic radicalism within his country. part of it produced because of the russian army's brutal suppression of people. he is looking at perhaps with hypersensitive is. i tend to think most likely, this is going to be one of those events tha will flare but it will flare out as well. you can never be sure because it is one of these groups that might get lucky and they might
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create some kind of an international incident. so far the protest remained mostly in the hundreds. egypt is a country of 60 million people. it would still seem to be that the vast majority of people in these societies are not involved in any of these protests. >> the criticism of the president coming and from romney and his foreign-policy advisers is in part, the u.s. has itself to blame because the obama administration has shown weakness in that part of the world and the enemies are jumping. what do you think about that criticism? >> it misunderstands what is happening. this is not about us. this is about them. what is happening in these societies is the dictatorships are gone and the real story is not about bad government in libya. it is about no government.
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the new government, the democratically elected government barely has control over the country and that is why these forces. the embassies, you walk around them and they are not trained with troops anywhere in the world, certainly not in the arab world. this was an easy target in a society where the government had collapsed. it is like somalia with the black hawk down at they said them like a run. the obama administration has responded fine but the most important thing is this is not about us but it is about them. >> thanks very much. >> pleasure as always. >> we are following this developing story and as protests spread from 1 arab nation to another, stay with cnn tonight and through the weekend for all the breaking news [ male announcer ] wouldn't it be nice if there was an easier,
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